Christopher Lee: Renaissance Man

Christopher Lee died June 7 at the age of 93, but what seems to be common among those who knew him is that he was a regular Renaissance man.

Director Peter Jackson wrote was likely the most touching of all the tributes that flowed throughout social media. According to Jackson, Christopher Lee was “a true gentleman, in an era that no longer values gentleman.” Jackson worked with the venerable actor through five movies between the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series of films. Lee’s status as a gentleman is not the only characteristic for which he was known, however.

Christopher Lee‘s parents — a retired British officer father and an Italian countess mother — divorced, and when his mother remarried, it was to author Ian Fleming’s uncle. This is, of course, only one factor that ties Christopher Lee to the James Bond legacy; Bond fans doubtless remember Lee’s chilling turn as Francisco Scaramanga, the titular Man with the Golden Gun. This was only a part of his legion of work that would forever cement his part in cinematic history; he took part in no less than at least five historic movie series, including Bond.

Before taking on the roles of Star Wars’ evil Count Dooku or Lord of the Rings’ Saruman, Christopher Lee had a past with the British Special Forces, could apparently speak seven languages, and was known for his love of heavy metal music. He was a Lord of the Rings aficionado as well and knew author J.R.R. Tolkien. Older generations would know him as the penultimate Dracula from the Hammer Horror series of films, but it’s been over the last decade or two that Christopher Lee has really come into his own.

After being knighted in 2009, Lee released Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross, a complete album of heavy metal music, in 2010 at the age of 88. Not only was the actor one of the few to release a heavy metal album as an octogenarian, he also saw the album released as a tribute to the Frankish king from whom he is descended. While Christopher Lee does not sing on the album — at least, not in the true sense of the word — reviewers noted that it is the actor’s bass voice that goes a long way to underscoring the power of the music itself.

Whether his legion of fans remember him for his acting or for his varied other interests — including his charity work — what remains clear is that Christopher Lee has a fully fleshed out body of work that is not to be denied. He was a true Renaissance man in every sense of the word.

[Lead image via Hammer Films]